Here we are in San Antonio at the National Down Syndrome Congress Annual Convention being held at the J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort.
Jerry and I came down Wednesday, the staff arrived Thursday, we all went to pre-conference sessions yesterday, and Gena and Travis brought the Ranchers down yesterday afternoon in the bus.
What a change from last year, when we met at Disney World and were dropped off in the pitch dark in a veritable maze of unconnected buildings, amongst which were scattered our rooms. In retrospect, we feel like we spent most of the conference waiting for a bus, sitting on a bus, or walking two miles from the bus to where we needed to go.
Here...wow! All connected, all gorgeous, all accommodating, with a water park on site. There's no crowding, smashed together feeling (except for last night at the Just Dance function, and that's how it was supposed to be).
And whenever I thank someone the heavens open, rays of sunshine beam down, and I hear these beautiful words, "It's my pleasure!"
Jerry and I noticed it right away, the glorious absence of the obnoxious phrase that has replaced "You're welcome," namely--NO PROBLEM, DUDE!"
OK, so you don't really hear the "dude" part, but you hear it in your head, or at least I do. Jars me every time. I thank you for something you did for me, even if it was your job, and you dismiss it with "no problem." Like I thought it was a problem to begin with, which I didn't.
Guess I've turned into an old grammar crank but looks like Mr. J. W. Marriott is one, too, because I have not heard one "no problem" from any of the staff since I got here.
Jerry got to play the Oaks course, from which he returned happy if a bit crispy from the 105 high on Thursday.
Casey, Lori, Calvin and I attended Dr. Chicoine and Dr. McGuire's workshop on health and aging in adults with Down syndrome yesterday. We came away inspired, with a thousand ideas for new ways to help our Ranchers be successful in their lives while reducing situations that cause them needless stress and anxiety. Most all the news from this workshop was good, except for one, namely that it really does seem that people with Down syndrome age more quickly than the normal population, that aging accellerates once they hit their 30s.
Later, as Casey and I waited out in front of the hotel for the bus to arrive with our gang we got to talking about the Ranchers, and how we miss them when we're away from them. I ventured that I couldn't really imagine Casey functioning as a case manager with any other group of people. She laughed and said that when she'd gone to "case manager" school all the case managers there wanted to be teachers and couldn't understand why she, a teacher, wanted to become a case manager.
"Of course the truth is, I only wanted to be a case manager for Down Home Ranch in the first place," she said.
I had asked Dr. McGuire, on behalf of us older parents who worry about the effect of our death on our kids with Down syndrome, if he thought intentionally making a video of all our family now while we're still functional and happy was a good idea, something that could be of comfort when we were gone. Casey and I were talking about that, too, as we waited for the bus.
"The truth is," she said, "My hope is to hang in with this bunch as we all age together and then we'll all go together. That's what I want."
Well, as my grandmother used to say, "Man proposes and God disposes." Our little community will play out in ways we can't imagine.
Meanwhile, we'll just dance.